Looking Forward to Spring

Hello and welcome to the third Wellness Weekend link-up of 2020! I hope that despite the grim COVID-19 pandemic news, the new season entices you to do something that brings you joy. The link-up optional prompt is Spring Forward so I’m sharing the 5 things that I look forward to in Spring.

5 things I look forward to in Spring

1) Sunny days, longer daylight hours, and milder temperatures: On Sunday March 8, we started daylight saving time and moved our clock forward an hour. We had some gorgeous sunny days this week, with high temperatures reached 14C (57F). Although it was still on the cool side for the rest of the week, it felt very nice for outdoor walks.

A sunny day by Lake Ontario
A sunny day by Lake Ontario

2) Spring flowers in local florist shops and gardens: During one of my walks this week, I saw potted camellias, daffodils, forsythia, and tulips for sale at some of the local shops. Soon we’ll have pansies, cherry blossoms, and more spring flowers in our local gardens and parks. They bring cheerful colours to the city which has been mostly white or in muted colours throughout the winter.

Pink and highly fragrant Camellia Lutchuensis
Pink and highly fragrant Camellia Lutchuensis

3) Bird watching: We have a lot of mallards, ducks, swans, and Canada geese in Toronto Harbour. The long-tailed ducks are fun to watch as they dip and stay under water for a long time before popping up. The red-winged blackbirds have returned with their vocal chorus. Soon they’ll be nesting and become aggressive to anyone who goes near their nests. Bird watching will then take on a slightly different meaning 🙂

Mallards and American black ducks
Mallards and American black ducks

4) Spring outdoor activities: Time to swap skates and skis for wheels like bicycles or roller blades. I look forward to cycling and heading out on one of the dedicated bike paths in the city. Spring is an excellent time for cycling before the hot and humid summer weather arrives.

Bike Share Station
Bike Share Station

5) Syrup, the sweetest sap, as in Maple Syrup: As winter wanes, maple trees’ sap starts to flow and the maple syrup harvest can begin. Throughout March we have festivals to celebrate one of Canada’s tastiest exports – maple syrup. Many public events unfortunately got cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. However, I look forward to enjoying one of the maple lattes at Second Cup Coffee, a Canadian coffee retailer and roaster.

Maple Fresh Coffee Brew, Maple Latte, and Maple White Hot Chocolate
Maple Fresh Coffee Brew, Maple Latte, and Maple White Hot Chocolate

Click here to join in on the fun and share your wellness-related post, or let me know what you’re looking forward to in spring. I’d love to hear your comments.

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

Hiking to Devil’s Cauldron Waterfall

Welcome to the second Wellness Weekend link-up in 2020! I hope everyone had a nice Valentine’s weekend and your wellness plans for 2020 have been going well. The optional prompt for February is Hiking so I’m sharing a moderate hike to the Devil’s Cauldron waterfall. My sister and I completed this hike when we were in Baños, Ecuador.

Where is Devil’s Cauldron Waterfall?

Baños (full name Baños de Agua Santa) is located about 180 km (112 miles) south of Quito. This town is known for its waterfalls, hiking trails, and hot springs. The Devil’s Cauldron waterfall (El Pailon del Diablo) is 18 km from the town centre. It’s one of Ecuador’s most powerful waterfalls and one of the top rated attractions in Baños.

How challenging is this hike?

I classify this hike as Moderate because although the path is clearly marked, it has uneven surfaces. It also involves stairs and a suspension bridge. As long as you watch your step and are not afraid of heights or suspension bridges, the hike is rewarding.

Let’s hike together!

We started following the Green River (Rio Verde) to the Isla del Pailon entrance. While there are other entry points, this entrance lets us see the full height of the waterfall. Entry fee was $2 per adult and $1 per child.

Green River (Rio Verde) in Banos, Ecuador
The Green River (Rio Verde) in Baños, Ecuador

The water flow was strong, rushing by the black volcanic rocks seen along the river banks. On the right of the photo below, the walking path is behind the low lichen-covered stone wall. We soon understood why the wall is essential for our safety.

The Green River flows towards a cliff
The Green River flows towards a cliff

We followed the stone path and reached the suspension bridge. On the left, we saw the side views of the Devil’s Cauldron waterfall which plunges some 80 meters (263 feet) over a sheer cliff to the rocks below.

Side view of Devil's Cauldron waterfall
Side view of Devil’s Cauldron waterfall

It’s necessary to cross the suspension bridge to see the full view of the waterfall and to understand why it’s called the Devil’s Cauldron. The maximum capacity of the bridge is 50 people. Of course it swayed as people got on it. Crossing the suspension bridge was stepping outside my comfort zone but I did it!

Suspension bridge at Devil's Cauldron waterfall
Suspension bridge at Devil’s Cauldron waterfall

At the other end of the suspension bridge, we faced the Devil’s Cauldron waterfall. It is beautiful and powerful. Its appearance and sheer force are mesmerizing. People who stood at the Lookout platforms below looked so small next to the waterfall.

Devil's Cauldron waterfall, Baños, Ecuador
Devil’s Cauldron waterfall, Baños, Ecuador

We continued to descend the path to the lower level. When we stood at the Lookout place, we could feel the mists, see the curtains of water, and hear the thundering sounds of the powerful waterfall plunging straight down to the bottom.

Devil's Cauldron waterfall
Devil’s Cauldron waterfall

We could see the rocky bottom where water was churning before it settled into a smoother flow and another suspension bridge looking like a thin stick at a distance.

It’s amazing that the stone path was carved out of the cliff side to allow visitors to get close to the waterfall. The surrounding scenery was also beautiful with cascades running down the mountain sides.

Cascades near Devil's Cauldron waterfall
Cascades near Devil’s Cauldron waterfall

We walked back to cross the suspension bridge and exited the same way that we came in. On our way out, we stopped to admire a variety of pretty flowers grown along the path. I’m sharing a small sample below.

Gratitude moment

I’m grateful for another amazing day and another wonderful hike in Ecuador with my sister. Altogether we did about 3 km return trip with stairs and suspension bridge crossings. We learned something new about the Devil’s Cauldron waterfall. The hike and nature gave me new energy. I’m looking forward to our next hike.

Click here to join in the Wellness Weekend 2020 link-up and share your wellness-related post. As your host, I will read your blog and leave a comment. For a full schedule of all Wellness Weekends in 2020, please see my Wellness page here.

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

Hiking to Peguche Waterfall

Welcome to the first Wellness Weekend link-up in 2020! I hope the first eighteen days of January have gone well for everyone and you’ve got some time to warm up before tackling your New Year’s plans with gusto. I’ve posted the full list of Wellness Weekend link-up dates and optional prompts here for future reference.

Why Warm Up?

A warm-up is helpful at the beginning of a fitness session to get our mind and body ready for subsequent and more intense activities. In my previous post, I shared that one of my ten favourite experiences in Ecuador is hiking. The first hike that my sister and I did is an easy hike to Peguche waterfall near Otavalo. It’s our warm-up hike to prepare us for more strenuous hikes later on.

About Peguche Waterfall

Peguche waterfall is 5 minutes northwest of the city of Otavalo which is located 110 km north of Quito and 2530 meters above sea level. Peguche waterfall is a sacred place in the culture of the indigenous peoples of Otavalo.

I categorize this hike as Easy because the trail is flat and well-defined. The length of the trail is just right (about 3 km return). There are a few points of interest along the way, and the highlight is a beautiful waterfall. Otavalo’s spring-like climate in December also makes it ideal for hiking. So we headed to Peguche trail.

Welcome sign to Peguche waterfall

Once we entered the Peguche trail, we were surrounded by beautiful tall trees and lush green shrubs. The winding path was easy to walk on. Mosses and lichen covered the low rock walls that protect the trees from foot traffic.

Trail to Peguche waterfall

The trail is about 1.5 km long. It took us about twenty minutes to reach the bridge that faces the waterfall. Peguche waterfall is a beautiful waterfall of 18 m in height, formed by the river of the same name, which starts at Lake San Pablo. The lush green vegetation embraces the waterfall. The clouds moved in and out to give us some sun.

Peguche Waterfall

We stood on the bridge for a while to enjoy the views before walking up the paths along both sides of the falls to reach the Lookout platform (Mirador), and onto some big rocks to get closer to the waterfall. We could feel great volumes of mist from the powerful waterfall.

Peguche waterfall

The local people name Peguche waterfall Forest Protector (Bosque Protector), because all of the trees get their water from the waterfall’s mists and the downstream gushing water. On the night of the summer solstice, the waterfall becomes the privileged place for community ritual bath, as a first step to celebrate the Festival of the Sun (Inti Raymi).

Peguche waterfall downstream

As we walked along the trail, I could hear bird songs and spotted a number of plants with pretty flowers. There were also lots of ferns and orchid plants that cohabit with tall eucalyptus trees. The sun came out and everything glowed.

Peguche trail

Outside the Peguche trail, to the left is the Sun Dial (Inti Watana) site, also known as the Solar Calendar. The site includes a round adobe wall with a sun dial in the centre. People from different communities come together to offer their crops to the Sun god (Inti), and celebrate the summer solstice here.

Inti Watana in Peguche
Sun dial in Peguche

It was a nice short hike on a beautiful morning in Peguche. Altogether we did about 3 km return trip (about 2 miles). We learned something new about Peguche waterfall. The warm-up hike and nature gave me new energy. I looked forward to more hiking in Ecuador. Happy trails!

Trail from Peguche waterfall

Click here to join in the Wellness Weekend 2020 link-up and share your wellness-related post. As your host, I will read your blog and leave a comment 🙂

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

Reviewing Health Goals: What Went Well?

At the beginning of 2019, my overall plan for the year is to create nice memories with my family and friends, to stay healthy, and to enjoy life. I have nineteen specific goals and group them in three categories: Family & Friends (five goals), Health (six goals), and Leisure (eight goals).

We’re now in the second week of December. I’m gently wrapping up the year 2019, starting with a review of my six Health goals in this post. They were on my Blogger blog so I’m copying them over in a table format and adding my results next to each goal.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Health Goals in 2019

GoalResults
Meditate 15 minutes dailyDone daily. Meditation clears my mind and sets a positive tone for the day.
Find humour to smile or laugh dailyDone daily. 2019 has been an amazing year for me and I find it easy to smile or laugh.
Walk 6x/ week, 45 minutes each timeDone and some more. I continue to live a car-free lifestyle. I’ve been walking longer distance in the Fall.
Strength workouts 3x/ week, 1 hour each timeDone consistently. I feel fit and healthy. The exercises improve my balance, focus, stamina, and strength.
Yoga 2x/ week, 1 hour each timeDone consistently. My body is flexible and I can do a range of motions without pain or difficulty. The deep breathing practice helps me sleep well.
Swim 1x/ week, 1 hourDone consistently. Swimming relaxes me and builds endurance at the same time.

What Went Well?

Photo by Ryan Baker on Pexels.com

I’m committed to maintaining good health and as such I’ve designed my health routine to suit me. Here’s what went well:

1) Enjoyment: I choose activities that I like and that I can do year-round. This increases the chance that I look forward to doing them, and I can do them regularly without any significant gap.

2) Variety: I have six activities and goals for each. I do a different set of activities each day and make changes to keep the routine fresh and engaging. My yoga instructor also delivers a unique class every time.

3) A mix of structure and flexibility: The structured activities are my yoga class which is on Tuesday and Thursday, from 9 to 10 AM. The remaining activities are on my own time although I usually complete them in the morning.

4) A mix of group and solo activities: In my yoga class, we have anywhere from 12 to 22 participants in each class. My other health activities are solo although I do work out in the gym with one of my friends every few weeks and I do see other people in the gym and at the pool.

5) Self-care time: Some of my walks are with my family or friends. The rest of my health activities are by myself (gym, meditate, swim, walk) or in a class (yoga) so I have that time just for me.

Where does all this lead?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Life Quality: I’d say my life quality is excellent this year. I’ve enjoyed several health activities, a variety of leisure pursuits, and frequent travels. I’ve made new friends from my yoga class, as well as through blogging, and travelling.

Gratitude: I’m very thankful for having my good health. It enables me to enjoy life with my family and friends. I can be of help to them when needed.

My thank-you to everyone who has participated and/ or supported the Wellness Wednesday link-up with your comments. I also want to thank Leslie for joining me on this journey and for setting up the monthly link-up codes.

Photo by Giftpundits.com on Pexels.com

What went well health-wise in 2019 for you? Would you do anything differently in the New Year? I’d love to hear your comments.

Click here to join in the last Wellness Wednesday link-up of 2019. I look forward to continuing our blogging connections with you all.

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

Hiking the Attikamek Trail

I’m co-hosting the Wellness Wednesday November 13th link up with my blogger friend, Leslie. The optional prompt is Healthy Holidays so in this post I’m sharing a hike that my family and I did during our mini-vacation in Sault Ste. Marie, a city on the shore of the St Marys River connecting Lake Huron and Lake Superior.

Sault Ste. Marie, ON
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario (green marker)

About the Attikamek Trail

The Attikamek Trail is located at the Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site of Canada, easily reached from the city centre. It’s 2.2 km long (1.4 miles) on flat terrain. Attikamek means white fish.

Hiking the Attikamek Trail

We started from the Sault Ste. Marie Canal gate, crossed the lock, and followed an accessible pathway onto south St. Marys Island. The weather was overcast, cool, and calm without any wind so it felt quite comfortable for an outdoor hike.

Looking towards the International Bridge
The Attikamek trail is on the left in this photo.

We soon entered the packed gravel trail path, surrounded by autumn foliage, from green to various shades of yellow and red. Part of the trail let us walk under the International Bridge, built in 1962.

Attikamek Trail

The Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge spans the St. Marys River between the United States and Canada, connecting the twin cities of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

International Bridge in Sault Ste. Marie

We stopped by St. Marys Rapids to listen to the sounds of the water and watched a few dedicated fishermen patiently waiting for a good catch. The packed gravel and leaf-laden trail then turned into a wide wooden boardwalk with lovely views on both sides.

Boardwalk

A flock of small birds happily greeted us at the boardwalk. They had light yellow and some black feathers. I think they’re warblers. Can you see a bird blended in with the berries in the centre of the photo below?

We enjoyed the calm reflection of autumn foliage, woods, and wetlands in the river. A family of ducks lazily swam along while other ducks were just watching us.

Autumn reflections
Ducks

Further along the trail, we found a few beaver dams but no beaver in sight since they usually work at night. What looks like a heap of branches is protection against their predators and gives them access to food during winter.

A beaver dam
A beaver dam

At the end of the Attikamek trail we reached the Sault Ste. Marie lock and walked around to examine how it works. The lock operation to raise or lower vessels that go from Lake Huron to Lake Superior is fascinating and deserves a separate blog post.

Looking towards the Locks
The lock is behind the white bridge at the end of the photo.

It was a nice short hike on a calm afternoon in Sault Ste. Marie. Altogether we walked about 3 km (1.8 miles) and experienced the wonder of quiet woods and wetlands. Happy trails!

Click here to join the Wellness Wednesday link-up and share your health goal updates or healthy holiday ideas.

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

Happy 3 Years of Blogging

I’m co-hosting the Wellness Wednesday October 9th link up with my blogger friend, Leslie. The optional prompt is Gratitude. October 10th marks my 3rd full year of blogging so this is a 2-in-1 post to say happy three years of blogging to me and to express my blogging-related gratitude in no particular order 🙂

I’m Grateful For…

  • Free templates on Blogger and WordPress: I can try something new without spending money up front. Without the free templates, I probably wouldn’t start blogging in the first place. I started on Blogger in October 2016 and moved to WordPress in June 2019.
  • Easy-to-use blogging tools: I find both Blogger and WordPress easy to use. The move from Blogger to WordPress is simple. I’ve been using the WordPress block editor (Gutenberg) for all my blog posts from June to date without any issue so far.
  • The digital nature of a blog: It allows me to write and keep a digital record which is a lot lighter in weight than a paper journal. Less paper used, less physical storage needed, less to dust. Win, win, win.
  • The first comment that I received on my blog: It came from a blogger in February 2017, four months after I started blogging. We’re both still blogging and linking up. Do you remember the first comment you received on your blog?
This group of totem poles made me think of the blogging community: unique and together
  • Friends who blog: I started reaching out to meet up with bloggers in my third year of blogging. It was a pleasure to meet Ann, Joanne, Donna, Sue, and Jude in real life. Have you met a blogger and started a new friendship?
  • The link-up hosts: Especially the hosts who reply to comments on their blog and visit linked-up participant’s blog to comment. I appreciate your time and efforts. You’re building a blogging community and I think that’s cool.
  • The readers who leave comments on my blog: I appreciate your time and thoughtful comments. If you have a blog, I try to visit it and leave a comment, too. Your kind comments brighten my day and enrich the blog conversation.
  • The time to blog for leisure: Every blogger knows that blogging is time-consuming and time is one of our most precious resources. I’m grateful to have a small chunk of time to blog for leisure and at my own pace.
  • The freedom to blog: How wonderful is it that I’m free to type and publish my thoughts? My blog is a canvas where I create, edit, save, share, and connect with people across the miles. I’m enjoying the journey!

I hope you have a wonderful week. Happy Thanksgiving weekend to my Canadian friends and readers!

Click here to join in on the Wellness Wednesday link-up.

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

Sleeping at Queen’s University

I’m co-hosting the Wellness Wednesday link up on September 11 with my blogger friend, Leslie. The optional prompt is Sleep Hygiene. So I thought I’d share my recent experience sleeping at Queen’s University Residence and the ten steps that I follow to sleep well. [This is not a sponsored post and there is no affiliate link].

Why University Residence?

It’s an affordable accommodation for travellers. The room charges contribute to the university’s revenue which hopefully will be used to improve student’s life on campus. The residence buildings are put to good use when students are on extended breaks such as the summer months. The seasonal jobs, although not all filled by students, are usually needed by students to gain work experience and income.

Queen’s University is located in Kingston, about 2.5 hours by train, east of Toronto. The university has several residence buildings that are available for public bookings from May to end of August. We booked a premium unit at David C. Smith House. Let me give you a quick tour with a few photos.

The David C. Smith Building

David C. Smith House is one of the 17 residence buildings at Queen’s. It opened in September 2015, and is named in honour of former Principal Dr. David C. Smith, who served as Queen’s Principal from 1984 to 1994.

David C. Smith House at Queen's Univeristy

The Reception Area

The reception area is on the main floor. Check-in and check-out activities are managed like in a hotel. The lounge is spacious with floor to ceiling windows, comfortable seating, and televisions for viewing. Complimentary hot tea or coffee available from 6 am to 11 am. Still and sparkling water fountains, vending machines, a small snack bar, two computers, and printers are available 24/7.

The Lounge

The Laundromat

The laundry room offers washers, dryers, ironing board, and iron. It even has a mounted television. Beyond the lounge area, for security purposes, guests must use their assigned cards to access the laundry room and elevator service to rooms on upper floors.

Laundry room

The Kitchen

Each floor has a full kitchen, equipped with a fridge, microwave, stove, oven, toaster, kettle, sinks, drawers, a couch, tables and chairs. It also has natural lighting and nice views of the lake and the campus.

The Guest Rooms

The Premium unit has two guest rooms that share a bathroom in the middle. Each guest room has a double bed, desk, filing cabinet, chair, wardrobe, mirror, dresser, mini-fridge, TV, window, black-out curtains, adjustable thermostat, and complimentary Wi-Fi.

The shared bathroom has a small shower stall, toilet, and sink. Linen, towels, toilet paper, and soap are provided. Housekeeping services are scheduled every other day between 9 am and 1 pm.

Bedroom with desk, chair, filing cabinet, mini-fridge, and wardrobe with mirror
Bedroom 1 in Premium unit
Bedroom
Bedroom 2 in Premium unit

We had an affordable and comfortable stay. The campus is right by the waterfront which has a nice park and a clean trail for cycling, walking, and running.

During my travels, I’ve stayed in various Canadian university residences and a few abroad. I’ve had very good experiences with all of them.

The Ten Steps To Sleep Well

I sleep well when I adhere to the following ten steps:

  1. Do adequate physical movements during the day.
  2. Have dinner without overeating.
  3. Stay away from food or drink that may upset my stomach.
  4. Try to have consistent sleeping and waking times.
  5. Park unresolved issue by writing them down for ‘next day’.
  6. Break from ‘screen time’ at least half an hour before bed.
  7. Do mental acknowledgment of what I’m grateful for.
  8. Relax my mind and body with deep abdominal breathing.
  9. Have clean and comfortable bed, pillow, and bedding.
  10. Keep the bedroom cool, dark, and quiet. Non-smoking room is a must when I travel.
Sleep it off
Sleep it off…(art on two discarded mattresses). Hope this makes you smile.

I’d love to hear your comments. Would you consider staying in university rooms? What are your tips for sleeping well?

Click here to join in on the Wellness Wednesday fun. Our next link-up is on October 9 with the optional prompt Gratitude.

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.